A big goal of mine for a long time has been to make my own bra. I have been a huge fan of those made by Lladybird and Madalynne for the past couple of years. I have contemplated buying the bra making course on Craftsy for a while too but something always put me off. Probably the fact I have a larger chest and the idea of sourcing all the speciality fabrics and findings seemed like a nightmare. In the end I wondered if making my own bra was just too complicated and a bit of a pipe dream.
Well, as it turns out, it isn’t.
Just before Christmas I received an email from Julia Hinks advertising a bra making course at the Friends Centre in Brighton. I initially hesitated as I just wasn’t sure my current skill set was up to the challenge but after speaking with friends I decided to go for it. After all, I have a couple of years of sewing under my belt and I have made some bigger, complicated items. It was now or never. Plus bra making courses seem few and far between in the UK - particularly here in Brighton.
The course itself was fantastic. The tutor was knowledgeable and easy to understand but perhaps more importantly she was incredibly personable and friendly and I instantly felt at ease.
The thing I love most about taking sewing courses is sewing with other like minded people. Often sewing can be a solitary hobby - just you, the fabric and the machine (and often, in my case, an audiobook) for company. Which, don’t get me wrong, is great, but sometimes it’s just nice to have a big group all stitching together and filling the room with the sound of machines and chatter.
We used the Pin Up Girls pattern by Beverly Johnson (the bra-making godmother and the lady who teaches the online course on Craftsy) and the fabrics and findings all came as part of a kit from Fit2Sew (I chose the black cherry one).
Using Beverly Johnson’s measuring method brought up some dubious sizing - it made me 38B. In ready to wear I am a 36F. Quite the difference. When I saw the pattern pieces I was still sceptical however, I was willing to give it a try. Plus they did mention in the course materials that the sample bra we make in class would be unlikely to fit in the first instance.
Making a bra was not actually as difficult as I first thought. It’s a bit fiddly in places and there is less room for error (especially with that quarter inch seam allowance!) but all in all pretty straight forward when you get your head round it.
I finished the sample bra in around 4 hours give or take and I was pleasantly surprised with myself. I expected my stitching to be all over the place and I thought it wouldn’t be that neat but actually, as a whole, it looked pretty good. It also encouraged me to take a closer look and my ready to wear bras and to my surprise noticed all the dodgy stitching and not quite finished seams - the bras I buy are probably mid price range (around £30) so it was a surprise to see. In any event it made me feel much better about my handmade one! it also made me realise why some bras are as expensive as they are - there is a lot of work going on there.
So, did it fit? No. Haha. But it did fit more than I expected it to (I literally thought it would cover my nipples and that would be it!). It was quite a strange experience to be standing in my bra in front of some women I had just met but hey ho, I did it and it wasn't all that bad. I found the fitting a very interesting process - especially when it came to looking at each other’s boobs (I have never stared at boobs so much in my life as this weekend!). It was really educational to see the fit of other people’s bras and talk about how they could fit better and what could be done.
We worked out that I have a relatively small back for the size of my boobs - essentially, the party is all in the front for me! I also discovered one of my boobs is smaller than the other. Something that is very common and once I noticed it I was actually surprised that I hadn’t realised before. It’s not massively obvious (I hope!) but when I have a bra on you can see one cup fits perfectly and the other has a bit of excess fabric at the top.
We decided for my next bra I should try and make my ready to wear size and go from there. We measured the pattern pieces against a bra I had brought along with me and it seems to be more or less the same measurements. Now obviously there’s no guarantee I won’t have to make further changes (and I probably will - one cup will have to be made slightly smaller to accommodate my smaller boob!) but it’s a better place to start.
There were other women in the class who had been measured at the wrong size by Beverly’s sizings too although some fit much better than others. It seemed that those of us with slightly larger chests were closer to our ready to wear sizes than those with slightly smaller ones who seemed to be fine with Beverly’s way of measuring. But that’s all part and parcel of sewing and finding the perfect fit.
In terms of the actual bra itself I'm not entirely convinced it's exactly my style but it's relatively easy to construct for a beginner and it gets the job done. I think fabric choices, and in particular the elastic and trim choices, will have a big effect on the look of the overall item too.
All in all I had a great time on the course and loved every minute of it. Bra making already seems quite addictive - I went straight home and ordered another bra making kit from Fit2Sew alongside the Shelley bra (another Pin Up Girls pattern) and Orange Lingerie's book (which I have already read cover to cover!).
As soon as my fabric and pattern arrived I traced and cut out my pattern pieces but sadly it all stopped there - my plans were foiled by catching a really bad cold which left me bed bound for a few days.
Still I’m on the mend now and I can’t wait to start making it up!